Arechigo & Stokka Receive Win in Minnesota Cyberbullying Case

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In June, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling reversing the cyberbullying conviction of a high school student that has been working its way through the court system for the last three years. The student, identified in court documents as A.J.B., was originally charged under Minnesota’s mail-harassment laws. The case, which involved a series of tweets containing insults mocking the target’s autism and sexuality, raised concerns over the law’s potential infringement of the First Amendment. A.J.B. was originally found guilty in juvenile court of multiple charges of stalking and harassment under Minnesota’s mail harassment laws. On appeal, the Court of Appeals allowed the Minnesota cyberbullying case conviction to stand, prompting the further appeal to the state’s supreme court. In its ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed with the lower court ruling, finding that the laws were, in fact, too broad and as a result could provide an unconstitutional restriction on free speech. In its opinion, written by Justice Paul Thissen, the court explained that while First Amendment protections are not limitless, here the line separating speech that could be regulated by the government had not been crossed. Instead, the law was overbroad because it could be used against someone who didn’t know or intend that their communications “frighten, threaten, oppress, persecute, or intimidate” the target. “Obviously, we consider this a pretty big victory three years in the making,” said the attorney for the defendant, John Arechigo. “It’s certainly a win for freedom of speech.”

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Jury Finds Client Not Guilty of Threats of Violence

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We recently wrapped up a week-long jury trial representing a client who was charged with a single count of Threats of Violence. This offense was formerly known as Terroristic Threats.  It’s a felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. OUR CLIENT Our client was a 37-year-old male. This was his first criminal offense of any kind. Our client had formerly worked as a video editor for Hubbard Broadcasting, specifically KSTP-TV, for the last 10 years. He consistently had positive annual performance reviews. Our client was fired in late April 2017 after a disagreement with his producer over an error on a news video. Hubbard attempted to characterize the termination as “for cause,” thus making him ineligible for unemployment benefits. Our client successfully appealed the denial of unemployment benefits on his own. Hubbard attempted to argue that our client engaged in misconduct during his disagreement with his producer, but the unemployment law judge found Hubbard’s explanation wasn’t credible. The unemployment law judge found our client matter-of-factly told his producer how he felt and did not engage in employee misconduct.   Our client returned to Hubbard in November 2017 in an attempt to get his job back.  His unemployment was about to run out and he was having difficulty finding work. Hubbard refused to give him his job back. A Hubbard security officer attempted to call our client to tell him to stay away from the Hubbard campus after our client was seen at a picnic table on June 10, 2018. That was a Sunday. Our client had sat at a picnic table at Hubbard, had a cigar, and reminisced about his old friends and mentors. He did not have contact with anyone on that date. THE CASE The security officer attempted to reach our client for several days, leaving a few voicemails asking our client to call him back. Our client finally returned the security officer’s calls on June 29, 2018. In response to being told to stay away from Hubbard, our client told the security officer “you need to change your f-ing policies, you know what happened in Maryland.” This phone call took place a day after the tragic shooting at the Maryland Gazette newspaper. The statement on the phone call was the basis for the Threats of Violence charge. The state accused our client of making a threat to commit a crime of violence. A charge of Threats of Violence can be a difficult charge for the state to prove at trial. As we all know, the state carries the burden to prove a defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In a trial on a charge of Threats of Violence, the state has to identify which specific crime the defendant threatened to commit. And it can’t just be any crime; it has to be what’s known as a crime of violence. A crime of violence has a very specific definition under the law. In this case, the state chose to rely on a threatened crime of Second Degree Assault with a Dangerous Weapon that caused others to fear immediate bodily harm or death. THE TRIAL We didn’t deny that our client made the statement on that June 29, 2018 phone call.  Rather, we argued at trial that our client’s statement did not constitute a threat. The state chose to focus the overwhelming majority of its case and witness testimony on events that happened back in 2017. The state presented witness after witness from Hubbard Broadcasting who all testified that our client was terminated for engaging in a heated discussion with his producer, that our client wasn’t happy when he was fired, and that he returned in November 2017 to ask for his job back. We knew what the state’s plan was before trial – it was going to try to paint our client as a disgruntled former employee who couldn’t get over being fired. This was so far from the truth, so disingenuous, and so unfair. It was actually sad to watch what they were trying to do to our client. On top of that, Hubbard hired a big shot criminal defense lawyer to help prepare their witnesses to testify. It was an absolute hit job. Thankfully, the jury was able to see through the state’s efforts to get a conviction. The jury’s patience seemed to grow thinner and thinner with each new witness who came in and talked about irrelevant stuff that happened in 2017. We hardly had any cross-examination questions for some of these witnesses, in an attempt to drive home the message to the jury that their testimony had nothing to do with this case.   The one witness we did spend some time cross-examining was the lead investigator, Sgt. Peterson. Sgt. Peterson conceded that the phone call was vague, that our client never said he was actually going to go to Hubbard Broadcasting, that our client never referred to any particular individual, that our client never mentioned any weapon, never said he was going to do something with a weapon, and that the location of our client was not known during the phone call.  Sgt. Peterson acknowledged that there was insufficient probable cause to believe our client had committed the offense of Threats of Violence. The sole issue for the jury to decide was whether the statement our client made on the June 29, 2018 phone call constituted a threat to commit Second Degree Assault with a Dangerous Weapon. We vehemently reminded the jury of its task during closing argument. We told the jury to disregard all testimony on issues occurring in 2017. In addition, we argued that our client never threatened to do anything. He made a comment out of anger in the heat of the moment after being told he wasn’t welcome at Hubbard. There is a drastic difference between making a statement out of anger – even a comment made in poor taste referring to a mass shooting – and actually threatening to threaten someone with a dangerous...

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Minnesota Criminal Vehicular Operation Case Result

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We’d like to tell you about a recent client we represented who was charged with felony criminal vehicular operation. First off, a little background on Minnesota’s Criminal Vehicular Operation (CVO) laws. Minnesota’s Criminal Vehicular Operation Laws Criminal Vehicular Operation is found in Minnesota Statute 609.2113. The offense can be charged as either a gross misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of a CVO charge is largely determined by the seriousness of the victim’s injuries. The driver’s driving conduct and/or any use of alcohol or controlled substances also factors into the severity of a charge of Criminal Vehicular Operation.   As a general starting point, there must be evidence that a person operated a motor vehicle in a grossly negligent manner OR in a negligent manner while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance OR while the person’s blood alcohol content was .08 or more in order to be charged with CVO.  Additional factors, like leaving the scene of an accident or if the person knew their vehicle was defective but failed to take steps to fix it, can also trigger a charge of Criminal Vehicular Operation A person will face a charge of gross misdemeanor CVO if the victim suffered “bodily harm.” Bodily harm means physical pain or injury, illness, or any impairment of physical condition. Common examples include your typical bumps and bruises or maybe a concussion with no loss of consciousness. Gross Misdemeanor Criminal Vehicular Operation carries up to one year in jail and/or a $3,00 fine. There are two different felony offenses of Criminal Vehicular Operation. The first results when the victim suffered “substantial bodily harm.” Substantial bodily harm means bodily injures which result in temporary disfigurement, cause temporary loss or impairment of a bodily function, or result in a fracture. A CVO charge under this felony level carries up to three years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. The other felony-level offense of Criminal Vehicular Operation results when the victim suffered “great bodily harm.” Great bodily harm means bodily injuries which nearly result in death, cause serious permanent disfigurement, or cause serious and protracted loss of impairment of a bodily function.  A CVO charge under this felony-level carries up to five years in prison and/or a $10,000 fine. Our client was charged under the lower-level felony offense for causing substantial bodily harm. Our Client Our client was a sixty-six-year-old female. This was her first criminal offense of any kind.  She was married to her husband for 43 years, until his passing three weeks before the incident.  She worked for the US Fish and Wildlife Service for 38 years and lived in the same home for 34 years. Not exactly your typical “criminal.”  On the night of the incident, our client had just finished the celebration of life for her late husband. She went out for a couple of drinks. She struck a pedestrian crossing the street as she was driving home.  The pedestrian was out walking with his daughter. They heard our client’s truck coming but were unable to avoid being struck. The victim suffered multiple fractured ribs, a fractured elbow, a lung contusion, and numerous scrapes and cuts. Our client was placed under arrest at the scene. Police obtained a search warrant for her blood. A blood draw was conducted and tested. Test results indicated her blood alcohol content was .19 at the time of driving, well over the legal limit. In addition to the felony CVO charge, the police also seized the client’s brand new Chevy Silverado pickup truck and were attempting to take the vehicle away from the client. Our client was extremely distraught, not only over the loss of her late husband, but over her decisions that evening and the injuries suffered by the victim. The client took steps to obtain a chemical health evaluation and also began seeing a grief counselor.   The Case The State sought a conviction for the felony CVO charge. Our client was willing to accept responsibility for her actions, but we felt a felony would have a serious lasting impact, could result in significant jail time and fines, and would also result in the loss of the client’s truck. Throughout our negotiations, the state refused to reduce the severity of the offense to a gross misdemeanor.  The client followed our advice and agreed to enter what is known as a straight plea to the court. A straight plea occurs when a criminal defendant stands before the judge and pleads guilty to a charged offense with no sentencing agreement or any real plea agreement of any kind with the state. The defendant allows the judge to make final sentencing decisions.   Prior to returning to court for sentencing, we filed a defense motion known as a motion for a durational departure. This motion asks the judge to reduce the severity of the charged offense.  In this case, we were asking the judge to reduce the felony level criminal vehicular operation charge to a gross misdemeanor.  A judge has authority and discretion to reduce the severity of a criminal offense, but the burden is on the defense lawyer to convince the judge that certain factors exist in a client’s case to justify the departure.  The state usually always argues against a departure motion and did so in this case. Despite the state’s objections, the judge agreed that proper departure factors existed and sentenced our client to a gross misdemeanor instead of the felony she was facing. We also successfully argued and kept our client out of jail. Perhaps the biggest result of the successful departure argument was that it allowed the client to get her truck back from the state. The state could not longer legally keep the truck without the felony conviction. Free Criminal Defense Lawyer Consultations Entering a straight plea to any criminal charge is risky.  This is just one reason to make sure your criminal defense lawyer is experienced in your case, has familiarity with the judge, and is aware of the sentencing arguments that will minimize the lasting effect of a criminal conviction. We offer free consultations for all criminal defense cases.  We’re licensed in both state and federal...

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Second Degree DWI Charges Dismissed

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2ND DEGREE DWI CHARGES DISMISSED Minnesota DWI lawyer, John Arechigo, recently achieved a dismissal of all charges for a client facing multiple 2nd Degree DWI charges in Scott County.  The client was facing a minimum of 90 days in jail.  After a thorough investigation into the case, which included review of several squad video recordings, it became clear that the State lacked sufficient evidence to prove that the client physically controlled a motor vehicle.  After a contested hearing in front of a respected Scott County Judge, the Judge dismissed all charges. MINNESOTA DWI BASED ON PHYSICAL CONTROL The State can file DWI charges against someone even when there is no evidence the individual ever actually drove a motor vehicle.  Minnesota DWI law allows for DWI charges to be filed under what’s known as the theory of physical control.  Physical control is a term that the courts have defined to refer to a person’s control over a motor vehicle.  The circumstances of a DWI based on physical control must show that the charged individual had access to the motor vehicle and had the ability to operate the vehicle.  The most common type of DWI based on on physical control usually involves a person asleep in a vehicle with the keys either in the ignition, in the vehicle or otherwise in the person’s possession.  Minnesota DWI law allows for DWI charges in these circumstances because it is presumed that the individual has the ability to operate the vehicle, even though he or she may be passed out at the time they are found by the police.  This was how the State attempted to pursue 2nd Degree DWI charges against our client. INSUFFICIENT EVIDENCE TO SUPPORT PHYSICAL CONTROL The responding officer in this case found our client asleep on the ground next to a running vehicle.  While it may have appeared as though the vehicle belonged to our client, the police officer failed to make that determination prior to arresting our client.  The officer who testified at the hearing on the motion to dismiss was unable to say how long our client had been at the location the client was found, when the client got there, whether the client had been driving, or whether the running vehicle even belonged to our client.  The officer assumed the vehicle was owned by the client and that the client had driven the vehicle.  The officer failed to develop the necessary facts needed to support an arrest for DWI and gather the appropriate evidence needed to support a charge of DWI based on physical control.  The Judge quickly realized the officer lacked sufficient evidence. FREE CONSULTATIONS WITH AN EXPERIENCED DWI ATTORNEY This case is a perfect example of why it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Minnesota DWI attorney before making any decisions on your case.  This particular client never planned to hire a DWI attorney on her case.  The client had planned to simply go to court and accept whatever happened.  The client eventually came in for a consultation only after a friend suggested talking to a DWI attorney. We offer free DWI consultations.  Give us a call.  This client was very happy to have called.

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Minnesota Criminal Defamation Appeal

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UPDATE CRIMINAL DEFAMATION As previously discussed, we have been fighting the constitutionality of the Minnesota Criminal Defamation statute for sometime.  After we successfully obtained a full dismissal of all charges for a client in Blue Earth County, we picked up another Criminal Defamation case out of Isanti County.  The prosecutors held firm in that case and refused to dismiss the charges.  The district court judge also denied our motions to have the charges dismissed.  We have since filed an appeal with the Minnesota Court of Appeals seeking a review of the district court judge’s decision.  Professor Eugene Volokh of the UCLA School of Law has joined the appeal as an amicus curiae, which essentially means he’s taken a position supporting our argument that the Minnesota Criminal Defamation statute is unconstitutional.  The Court of Appeals has not scheduled oral argument, yet.  For those interested, a link to our appellate brief and Professor Volokh’s supporting brief is below.  We’ll be sure to provide an update when the appeal is scheduled for argument. Update: The state has filed its responsive brief.  The state argues that the Criminal Defamation statute does not unnecessarily criminalize protected speech and, therefore, the statute is not overbroad.  The state also argues that the facts in this appeal deal with private speech between private individuals and, therefore, the speech has less constitutional protection which the state can rightfully punish.  Finally, the state argues that if the Court of Appeals were to find the statute impermissibly limits the defense of truth, that the Court can simply delete the impermissible language from the statute and, therefore, the statute would then be constitutional. The state completely misses the boat. While it is true that speech on matters of purely private concern between private individuals has less constitutional protection than speech on matters of public concern, it is still absolutely protected if true.  That is the major shortcoming of the Minnesota Criminal Defamation statute. SPEECH, REGARDLESS OF THE TYPE, ENJOYS ABSOLUTE CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTION IF TRUE.  IN ORDER TO CONSTITUTIONALLY PUNISH SPEECH, A STATE STATUTE MUST PROVIDE FOR THE ABSOLUTE DEFENSE OF TRUTH. Minnesota’s Criminal Defamation statute limits the availability of truth as an absolute defense of truth by placing a burden on the speaker to show the statement was made for good motives and justifiable ends.  This is an impermissible constitutional limitation on the absolute defense of truth.  Moreover, although the facts of this case may deal with private speech between private individuals, the appeal focuses on what’s called the “face of the statute.”  Our argument is the statute unconstitutionally punishes all types of speech so the statute itself is facially invalid.  The state completely fails to address this argument. IN ORDER TO SURVIVE OUR FACIAL ATTACK, THE STATE ARGUES THE COURT OF APPEALS COULD SIMPLY DELETE THE THE “GOOD MOTIVES AND JUSTIFIABLE” ENDS LANGUAGE FROM THE STATUTE AND, THEREFORE, THE STATUTE WOULD THEN PROVIDE FOR AN ABSOLUTE DEFENSE OF TRUTH. This argument asks the Court to re-write a statute, which is not a function of our courts.  It is well settled law that courts should not engage in re-writing state statutes.  Courts interpret statutes; they do not write them.  If the state wants the statute amended, it needs to take that issue up with the Minnesota legislature. A link to the state’s full brief is below. Amicus-BriefStates-BriefTurner-Appellate-Brief

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Defamation and Stalking Charges Dismissed

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The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office recently dismissed charges of Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking against a client.  This case was discussed in an earlier blog post, which you can find here. The charges stemmed from an email sent by the client that commented on an individual’s sexual preferences and activities and also contained a nude photograph of the individual.  While the email probably did not need to be sent, it was still protected speech under the First Amendment.  The Blue Earth County Attorney’s Office had a different interpretation and decided to charge our client with Minnesota Criminal Defamation and Stalking.  Our client maintained his innocence from day one and we proceeded to put together a constitutional challenge to the charges. As mentioned in the earlier post, Judge Johnson denied our motion to dismiss, barely addressing the constitutional shortcomings of the Minnesota criminal defamation statute.  Following the denial of our motion, we proceeded to prepare for trial and to also gather support for an appeal.  As the trial date approached, the State offered what’s known as a Continuance for Dismissal for six months.  Essentially, the charges would have been dismissed if the client remained law abiding for the next six months.  Ordinarily, this would have been a great offer; however, under the facts and circumstances of this case, it was not enough.  Our client rejected the State’s offer and proposed what’s known as a Lothenbach plea, which would have preserved our right to appeal Judge Johnson’s pre-trial ruling.  The client agreed to stipulate to the state’s evidence and ask the judge to review that evidence to determine his guilt or innocence.  Judge Johnson most likely would have convicted our client of the charges, which would have resulted in an appeal to the Court of Appeals.  If the Court of Appeals agreed with our position, the charges then would have been dismissed; if not, the conviction would stand.  Clearly, this procedure is fairly risky for the client but we were confident in our position. The State really does not have much to lose in this situation.  It is essentially getting a conviction, followed by an appeal.  The State would have to defend the appeal and attempt to argue that the Minnesota criminal defamation statute is constitutional.  Rather than standing behind the charges filed and defending the statute on appeal, the State dismissed all charges against our client the day before we were scheduled to return to court. This was a big win for the client.  The catch, however, is that Minnesota’s criminal defamation statute continues to be in force and the State can continue to charge individuals with this crime under an arguably unconstitutional statute.  At least until someone challenges that statute at the Court of Appeals. If you think we can help you or someone you know fight your criminal charges, contact our St. Paul criminal defense attorneys today.

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Another Expungement Granted

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RAMSEY COUNTY EXPUNGEMENT Minnesota criminal defense lawyer John Arechigo recently obtained another expungement for a former client.  The former conviction was only for a misdemeanor theft, so there’s nothing particularly extraordinary about getting a misdemeanor theft expunged.  What was different about this case, however, is that the expungement followed a dismissal after the client successfully completed the Ramsey County diversion program known as Project Remand. DIVERSION PROGRAMS Several Minnesota counties have a diversion program for criminal cases.  A diversion program removes, or diverts, a criminal case from criminal court.  The defendant must complete the conditions of the diversion program and remain law abiding during the length of the program, usually one year.  The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the diversion program.  Diversion programs are a great opportunity for certain first-time offenders to avoid a criminal conviction. The new Minnesota expungement law provides that successful diversion program participants are entitled to have their record expunged.  However, the new expungement law grouped diversion program cases together with individuals who received what’s known as a Stay of Adjudication in their criminal case.  A Stay of Adjudication and a diversion program are sort of the same thing in that they both result in a criminal charge being dismissed after successful completion of certain conditions; however, there is also a significant difference between the two. In a Stay of Adjudication, a criminal defendant stands in front of the judge and admits wrongdoing by pleading guilty to a criminal charge.  The guilty plea is not used against the defendant to convict; instead, the court stays – or suspends – finding the defendant guilty and places the defendant on a period of probation.  The criminal charge is then dismissed upon successful completion of the probationary period.  With a diversion program, the criminal defendant is typically not required to admit any wrongdoing or enter a guilty plea.  The criminal case is simply removed from criminal court without any formal proceedings. EXPUNGEMENTS: STAY OF ADJUDICATION VS. DIVERSION PROGRAM Minnesota’s new expungement law has a specific provision addressing expungement eligibility following a stay of adjudication.  The law requires the individual to wait one additional year after the charge has been dismissed before the case is eligible to be expunged. There’s the one-year probationary period with a stay of adjudication after which the criminal charge is dismissed.  The individual must then wait one more year with no new criminal offenses before their record is eligible to be expunged. The Minnesota expungement law seemingly imposes this same one-year waiting period for diversion program cases.  However, unlike a stay of adjudication, there is no admission of wrongdoing in diversion program cases.  Because there’s no admission, there’s an argument to be made that dismissal following successful completion of a diversion program is essentially the same as an outright dismissal.  Individuals who have had their criminal charge dismissed are immediately eligible for an expungement. This is the argument we made in our recent Ramsey County expungement case.  Most judges have been requiring the additional one-year waiting period following completion of a diversion program before considering a case eligible for expungement.  Minnesota criminal defense and expungement lawyer John Arechigo argued that the court should treat his client’s diversion program dismissal like an outright dismissal and grant the expungement before the one-year waiting period.  The judge agreed and granted the expungement.  John Arechigo was able to obtain the expungement only a couple months after his client’s charge had been dismissed.  The client was extremely happy that the court did not require the one-year waiting period.

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Felony Minnesota Expungement Granted

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MINNESOTA EXPUNGEMENT As some of you may know, a new Minnesota expungement law took effect January 1, 2015.  This new Minnesota expungement law, commonly referred to as the “second chance law,” has made obtaining an expungement much more realistic to many more people.  Prior to the new law, courts were limited in the type of expungement relief they could grant. Our lawyer recently obtained a full expungement for a client with an old Felony conviction.  This conviction had prevented our client from obtaining an IT position, which he was more than qualified.  Because the old conviction prevented him from working in his preferred field, he was forced to move to western North Dakota to manage a Wal-Mart to make ends meet. AN EXPUNGEMENT PETITION WAS FILED AND A HEARING WAS HELD IN EARLY JANUARY. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office had filed an objection to the expungement request.  Their objection was based on the old expungement law.  The county attorney appearing at the hearing withdrew the objection after arguments from our lawyer.  Judge Trachy granted full expungement relief and ordered all records related to the client’s felony conviction be sealed.  The Judge’s Order applied to every state agency that had records of the client’s conviction, including the police department, court records, probation records, and law enforcement records held by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).  A redacted copy of the Order is below. If you or someone you know would like to discuss a Minnesota expungement, please contact our lawyers today.  The experienced lawyers at Arechigo & Stokka will gladly review the facts and circumstances of your case for free.  We’ll take the time to explain how the new Minnesota expungement law may apply to your case.  If grounds exists, our attorneys will file an expungement petition on your behalf and argue to have your record sealed.  Call us today. BRYNGELSON ORDER REDACTED

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Felony Charges Dropped

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A CLIENT’S FELONY CHARGES WERE DROPPED BY THE RAMSEY COUNTY ATTORNEY’S OFFICE TODAY. The client was facing felony animal cruelty charges.  The charges stemmed from a falling out the client had with a former roommate.  The ex-roommate left behind a bunch of personal belongings, including a pet python snake. After my client and his wife asked the ex-roommates to leave their house, the ex-roommate began threatening to kill my client and his family.  The ex-roommate’s threats were serious enough to compel my client to obtain a Harassment Restraining Order and Order for Protection against the former roommate.  My client and his wife also called St. Paul Police to make arrangements for the ex-roommates to pick up their belongings. Arrangements were made for a specific date and time, but the former roommates came several hours after the agreed-upon time.  My client had placed the snake in its cage outside covered with a blanket.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your view of snakes) the snake died before its owners came to pick it up.  The former roommates called the police to report the death of the snake.  As a result, my client ended up facing felony animal cruelty charges. THE STATE ORIGINALLY OFFERED TO REDUCE THE CHARGE TO A MISDEMEANOR IF MY CLIENT PLED GUILTY. We declined the offer and continued to challenge the charge.  After additional information was brought to the prosecutor’s attention, it was clear that my client never acted with intent to harm that snake.  In fact, given the circumstances, my client probably went above and beyond what most people would have done in his situation.  The felony charges were dropped at today’s court appearance. THIS CHARGE PROBABLY SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN FILED AGAINST MY CLIENT IN THE FIRST PLACE. After being retained, we started to gather all the information that led to the death of the snake.  Once this information was presented to the prosecutor, the felony charges were dropped. HIRE ONE OF ST. PAUL’S BEST ATTORNEYS TODAY If you or someone you know is facing criminal charges, call our St. Paul criminal defense lawyers today.  Our Minnesota criminal defense lawyers provide a free consultation.  If retained, our St. Paul criminal defense attorneys will prepare an aggressive defense.  Call today.

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Client Avoids Prison After 3rd Degree Murder Charge

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OUR MINNESOTA CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYERS KEEP CLIENT OUT OF PRISON A recent client from Minneapolis, B.H., was facing a lengthy prison sentence after she was charged with contributing to the death of a young man who overdosed on drugs he bought from our client.  B.H. was charged Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs, 3rd Degree Murder, and Second Degree Manslaughter after it was discovered she had a role in J.C.’s death.  The charges were all serious felony offenses and carried several years in prison. J.C. OVERDOSED ON FENTANYL The evidence of this case showed the J.C. had known B.H. from prior mutual contacts.  In October of 2014, J.C. traveled to B.H.’s home in Minneapolis.  J.C. knew that B.H.’s partner was sick with cancer and had a prescription for Fentanyl to help with the pain.  J.C. offered to purchase some of the unused Fentanyl patches from B.H.  B.H. agreed, mostly because she and her partner needed the extra money.  B.H. did not know that J.C. had serious addiction problems and a history of previous suicidal overdose attempts.  J.C. purchased the Fentanyl in Minneapolis and returned to his home in rural Minnesota.  He was found dead a couple days later.  J.C. overdosed on the fentanyl he obtained from our client. PLEA NEGOTIATIONS A prominent Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer asked us to co-counsel B.H.’s case.  We have experience arguing the types of motions that are needed to help keep a client facing prison from spending several years behind bars.  After internal discussions with co-counsel, we agreed that the best course of action would be to approach the prosecuting attorney with an early proposed resolution.  We hoped that the time and work the prosecutor might avoid with an early resolution would help us get a favorable starting point for our client.  It worked. The prosecutor ultimately agreed to dismiss the 3rd Degree Murder charge and the 2nd Degree Manslaughter charge.  Part of the reason behind the dismissals was the early proposed resolution, but we also hinted at our defense – and we think the prosecutor recognized the legitimacy of the defense. To convicted B.H. of the 3rd Degree Murder charge, the prosecutor would have to prove that her actions of selling the Fentanyl to J.C. was the proximate cause of J.C.’s death.  Proximate cause is a legal term that essentially means the primary cause of the resulting harm or injury.  It was our position that B.H. did not have any knowledge that J.C. was going to use the Fentanyl in the manner he did.  J.C. smoked several of the patches and was found with additional patches inside his mouth.  With his history of suicide attempts, it was clear that J.C. was battling his own very serious personal demons.  If the case proceeded to trial, we intended to argue that J.C.’s own actions were as much a part of the result as B.H.’s.  I think the prosecutor recognized it might have been tough to prove that B.H.’s actions were the primary cause of death.  As a result, we struck a deal that called for B.H. to plead guilty to Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs. B.H. FACED SEVERAL YEARS IN PRISON A conviction of Great Bodily Harm Caused by the Distribution of Drugs carries a sentence of several years in prison.  The offense is known as a “presumptive commit.”  A criminal offense that is a presumptive commit is one where it is presumed that the offender will go to prison if convicted.  The only way to avoid prison is to convince the judge that your client does not deserve to go to prison (for a number of different reasons and/or circumstances) and the goals of sentencing will be better served by placing the person on probation. The other Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer and filed several motions to keep our client out of prison.  After a lengthy and emotional sentencing hearing, the judge granted our motions.  He agreed that the circumstances of the case, as well as B.H.’s clean criminal record and her ability to succeed on probation, warranted placing her on probation instead of sending her to prison.  B.H. was sentenced to 10 years of probation, ordered to serve 120 days in the county jail, and pay a $50 fine. While some people may take issue what they might perceive to be the lenient sentence, it really was the right outcome.  B.H. is not a drug dealer by any stretch of the definition.  She did not need to go to prison to appreciate her mistake or to be punished for her actions. Minnesota criminal offenses carrying a presumptive commit to prison require the knowledge and creativity of an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense lawyer.  Our defense attorneys have successfully helped a number of deserving clients avoid prison and atone for their mistakes on probation.  Call us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Minneapolis criminal defense attorney.

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